You might think that big, sweeping lifestyle changes are the only way to improve your health drastically. Think of all those huge promises we make ourselves, especially at the start of the year- quitting smoking, losing weight, working out every day.
While bigger health goals are important, some of the biggest changes come from the small steps we can take to improve our health. There are numerous smaller steps you'll take that will help progress your general wellbeing and quality of life - and they’re all things that are easily incorporated into your day-to-day life, so you can keep them up in the long term. Some will only take a few minutes each day but have a huge impact on your health.
There are three main things to reduce stress - working out regularly, mediation, and breathwork, that experts tend to recommend. But simple things can also help. Soothing music, relaxing in the bathtub, or having fun with friends and family can help you to relax.
And relaxation is important, as lots of stress can cause lots of health issues, like heart disease, stroke, higher blood pressure, depression, and migraines, to only name a few.
Even if you don't have lots of time, small periods of relaxation can also help you to destress. Just 10 minutes can help to negate the stresses of day-to-day life. Just reading a book for a short while, or walking your dog for a lap around the park, can help you to feel calmer and more relaxed. Try just taking a few slow and deep breaths if you really can’t take much time out - slow breathing helps our bodies to relax and helps to release chemicals to relieve stress, as well as lowering your resting heart rate.
2. Reduce Salt Intake
Excess salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, which is of course bad for our health. Try to put the salt shaker away, and only use it when you’re cooking when needed. You might find you don’t even need more salt! Healthy alternatives also include lemon, lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, or salt-free seasoning. Fresh and dried herbs are also a healthier way to flavor your food.
3. Get More Sleep
Most of us don’t get nearly the amount of sleep that we need. Over time - sleep deprivation can raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke, no matter how healthy you think you are. Even just 15 minutes more sleep a night when you need it could help - but of course, the best remedy is a consistent sleep schedule. Good sleep makes for good health!
4. Drink a Glass of Red Wine
Studies show that one glass of red wine can give health benefits such as antioxidants that fight against heart disease, cancer, anxiety, and depression. But remember to drink in moderation, while there is a medical reason why you can have a glass every now and again, too much alcohol can cause liver and kidney damage, and even cancer. One small glass a day is enough, without it becoming a hindrance more than a help.
5. Maintain Good Posture
Good posture is essential for your health and to help you feel relaxed too. Straightening your back, tucking in your stomach, and sitting with your feet flat on the floor is essential for good posture and good health. This can avoid back pain, which is a common health problem and a cause of disability.
It’s also good to take a few moments to check out how your workstation is set up, to avoid back and neck strain and other injuries you can get when you work on a computer. Simple adjustments can make a huge difference, as well as taking lots of breaks to do stretching exercises.
6. Mental Stimulation
Mentally challenging activities, such as reading, crossword puzzles, or chess, for example, have a protective effect on your brain. Studies have shown that engaging your mind in stimulating activities can lower your risk for diseases such as dementia. Other ways to maintain your mental health include connecting with others - social engagement can also help to protect against dementia.
7. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Keeping a healthy weight can help to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and some kinds of cancer. But also, women can be at risk for pelvic floor disorders if they are an unhealthy weight. Obesity can increase the risk for urinary stress incontinence, which is another great reason to try to maintain a healthy weight as much as possible.
8. Improve Your Diet
One way to maintain that healthy weight is to make some small changes in your diet. Try to swap white bread, pasta, and rice for whole grains, which are much healthier. Skinless chicken is also a healthy substitution, as well as lean cuts of meat. Try to cut down on sugary drinks too, and choose healthier snacks like fruit and vegetables rather than chips or sweets.
9. Take the Stairs
Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator can help to get your blood pumping, work out your lungs, and also workout the muscles in your lower body. It’s a simple and easy way to add physical activity to your day without setting aside the time to exercise, and it will also help to get your step count up!
10. Daily Stretching or Yoga
Regularly having a stretch will help you to avoid injury, as well as stay flexible as you age. Take a few minutes to stretch each day, even if you haven't worked out. Stretching right before bed can also help to relieve tension in your body before you sleep. Regularly stretching your muscles helps you avoid injuries, stay limber, and move freely as you age.
Take a few minutes to stretch out before and after you exercise as well. Find a quiet space in the office where you won't be disturbed. On the go? Look for natural opportunities in your daily routine to stretch, such as getting out of your car or reaching for items on a high shelf at the store. And balance exercises — like Tai Chi — can help dramatically reduce your risk of dangerous falls.
By Amy Cavill
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